One of the country’s largest insurers has said it is investigating “organised rings” of people staging car crashes around the country, with potential claims of more than €3m in just two counties.
Axa Insurance is investigating 36 allegedly staged accidents in Co Galway and another 19 accidents suspected of having been staged in Co Donegal. It said the potential costs of claims arising out of the various accidents is in excess of €3.2m.
Chief Superintendent Eoin Smullen of Galway gardaí confirmed “a number of road collisions” are currently under investigation.
It comes as the motor insurance industry has been under scrutiny for the soaring costs of premiums, with the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach publishing a report on the issue last November.
The Cost of Insurance Working Group Report published by Minister of State Eoghan Murphy in January also includes a number of initiatives to help tackle insurance fraud.
Axa set up its own Special Investigation Unit in 2002 and it now comprises 19 people, while its fraud investigation manager, Colm Featherston, formerly worked as a detective superintendent at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.
The insurer said that last year it opened more than 600 investigations in relation to suspect personal injury, accidental and third party damage, and household claims.
Attention has turned more recently to allegations of staged car crashes.
A company spokesperson said: “In recent times, Axa has identified organised rings of persons involved in staged traffic accidents in certain areas of the country which include Donegal and Galway.
“In particular in the Galway region, we have found links between persons involved in over 35 suspected staged accidents where personal injury claims are being pursued by over 190 third party claimants for a total sum in excess of €2m.
“In Donegal, we have 36 ongoing investigations into claims involving Donegal policyholders. Of the 36 claims being investigated, 19 are believed to be staged accidents, and those 19 staged accidents currently hold a combined reserve in excess of €1.2m.”
The company also said that it always refers claims suspected to be criminal in nature to An Garda Síochána, in accordance with the protocol agreed between gardaí and the insurance industry.
Axa said it had referred up to 25 cases to the gardaí for investigation in circumstances where insurance fraud is suspected in the past two-and-a-half years.
Chief Supt Smullen said: “I can confirm that Galway gardaí are investigating a number of road traffic collisions which Axa insurance are the complainant/injured party.
The complainants have alleged that these collisions are “staged” for the purpose of monetary gain.
“All avenues of enquiry are explored during such investigations of these type of allegations,” said Chief Supt Smullen.
“Axa believe that the investigation and prosecutions of these particular types of offences by the gardaí and the convictions delivered by the courts will act as a deterrent to would-be offenders.”
Insurance Ireland has estimated that the cost of fraud to all insurance companies is €200m, and a spokesman for the industry body said it estimated the cost of motor insurance fraud at approximately €50 for the average motor premium.
“Insurance Ireland’s members are concerned about the issue of staged accidents and some have pointed to their investigations identifying suspect patterns of activity and claims which are under investigation,” the spokesman said.
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